By Leo Schlink, HKJC
Francis Lui has joined an elite cluster of Hong Kong trainers to saddle 800 winners or more after teaming with regular ally Vincent Ho and Seaweed Fortune to reach the milestone at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (28 September).
Famed through his deeds with Hong Kong’s champion miler Golden Sixty, Lui was typically understated after Seaweed Fortune clinched the Class 4 Sheung Wan Handicap (1650m), joining Tony Cruz (1,419), John Size (1,416), Caspar Fownes (1,016) and Ricky Yiu (905) among the active trainers to post at least 800 victories.
John Moore holds the overall Hong Kong trainers’ record with 1,735 wins.
Fittingly, Lui’s march to a monumental figure was accompanied by Ho’s dominating treble.
“Of course, it’s nice and I’m very happy. I just hope there’s more winners coming,” Lui, 63, said of his achievement before quickly sealing a double with Ho aboard Gallant Waking in the first section of the Class 4 Central Handicap (1200m). “I’m very happy to do it with Vincent.”
Lui was first granted a trainers’ licence in 1996/97, snaring his first Group 1 with Lucky Bubbles in the 2017 G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
For Ho, who has been aboard Golden Sixty in all of the champion’s 21 triumphs and recently enjoyed a confidence-boosting stint in Japan, Seaweed Fortune’s success was especially satisfying.
“I’m really happy for Francis. He lets me ride his horses. His team does a great job. They’re always positive, so it’s great to get a winner for Francis. It’s a great achievement to get 800 wins,” Ho said, before addressing Golden Sixty’s quest for a third consecutive LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on 11 December.
“We’re having grass gallops and trials over the next month. He won’t be at his top in November, but he will be at his top in December – that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Ho crowned a wonderful night with success aboard Caspar Fownes-trained Nearly Fine, who claimed the outright lead in the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge by winning the Class 3 Wan Chai Handicap (1800m).
Ho, 32, has ridden at least one winner at each of the season’s six meetings so far to have nine wins overall and to occupy second place behind five-time Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton, who has 11.
Lui’s milestone came as Dennis Yip celebrated his first victory of the season in the Taxation Institute Of Hong Kong 50th Anniversary Cup Handicap (1200m) with Hercules under a ground-saving Alexis Badel ride.
Registering his first win since February, 2021, and his third overall in Hong Kong, Hercules burst through a narrow gap under Badel’s urgings. Underlining his surging confidence, the Frenchman piloted Tony Cruz-trained Yo Beauty to victory in the first section of the Class 3 Admiralty Handicap (1200m) as the Anjaal gelding slotted his first win at his 21st attempt in Hong Kong.
Luke Currie notched his first victory of the season with an enterprising ride aboard Jimmy Ting’s Lucky Diamond to land the Class 4 Sai Ying Pun Handicap (1800m), crossing from gate 10 to lead almost throughout.
“It’s good to get one up and kick the season off. It’s taken a few rides, but hopefully I can keep the ball rolling now,” Currie said. “He’s a one-paced, staying horse so I decided to roll to the front and he did a good job.”
Providing Caspar Fownes with a double, Winning Icey slotted his third win from seven starts by securing the second section of the Class 3 Admiralty Handicap (1200m) for Luke Ferraris while All Is Ready upstaged 11 rivals to claim the Class 5 Kennedy Town Handicap (1650m) under Vagner Borges to give Ricky Yiu his sixth winner of the season.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Saturday (1 October) with the running of the G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m).